THE ART OF MAINTAINING A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE IN THE SEVENTH- DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH
LYSANT MOLLY LANGWELL TEMBO
submitted in part fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF THEOLOGY in the subject
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AFRICA SUPERVISOR: C.J. HUGO
Student number 34936386
I declare that THE ART OF MAINTAINING A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE IN THE SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH
is my own work and that all the sources that I have used or quoted have been indicated and acknowledged by means of complete references.
______________________ _____________________ SIGNATURE
DATE PAST. L.M.L. TEMBO
Making a successful Christian marriage is a major challenge that faces the Seventh Day Adventist church (SDA Church) of Malawi. The colonial government of Nyasaland (Malawi) created weak marriages, promoting high divorce rates by its own practices during its era, which have remained to this day. The failure of secular marriages endangers the success of SDA Christian marriages.
Little has been done by the Church to educate its members concerning successful Christian marriage. This study focuses on educating the church to deal with the problems that cause marriage failure in the SDA Church. The Malawi government is another tool that the church could use to address marriage failure. I have used the Bible, and scientific research methods to suggest workable solutions for Christian marriage.
KEY WORDS: Marriage, oath of covenant, companionship, loves, SDA Church, adultery, education, leaving, cleaving, becoming one flesh, Practical Theology, marriage seminars, communication, temperament, premarital counseling.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1: MARRIAGE FAILURE IN THE SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH OF MALAWI 1.1Historical background of marriage failure in Malawi 1
1.2Marriage failure in the SDA Church of Malawi 5
1.3Statement of Problem 6
1.8Relevance of the study 9
CHAPTER 2: RESEARCH OF MARRIAGE FAILURE AS PRACTICAL THEOLOGY RESEARCH 2.1 Defining Practical Theology 11
2.2 Practical Theology as a dialogue between marriage counselors and married couples 11
2.3 Approaches in Practical Theology 11
2.3.1 The Contextual Approach 12
2.3.2 The Participatory Approach 12
2.3.3 The Confessional Approach 12
2.4 Claims of Practical Theology 13
2.5 Tasks of Practical Theology 14
CHAPTER 3: A BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN MODEL OF MARRIAGE
3.1 Basic concepts of marriage 17
3.1.1 Patriarchal marriage in the Old Testament 17
3.1.2 Marriage in the inter-Testamental times 18
3.1. 3 The Greek and Roman marriage 19
3.1.4 Marriage in the New Testament times 19
3.1.5 Jesus’ reaction to the treatment of women in the first century 20
3.1. 6 Traditional marriage in Malawi 21
3.1.7 Modern deviations from the legal Bible marriage 21
3.1.8 Legal contracts of marriage 22
3.1. 9 Definition of the Christian marriage 23
3.1.10Three steps in building a Christian marriage 26
3.1.11 The Christian marriage as a covenant 31
3.2 Forming marriage on dangerous ground 32
3.3 Contrasting some of the attributes of Genuine Love and Pseudo-Love in love relationships 34
3.4 Practicing of four loves in the Christian marriage 38
3.4.1 The use of love in Greece, Rome and the rest of the European continent 38 3.4.2 The significance of love in marriage 38
3.4.3 Divisions of love 40
3.4.4 Eros or romantic marriage 41
3.4. 5 Infatuation 43
3.4.6 Philia or brotherly love 45
3.4.7 Storge or parental love 46
3.4.8 Agape or divine love 47
3.4.9 Conclusion 49
CHAPTER 4: EMPIRICAL STUDY, PRESENTATION OF DATA. ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION: A SURVEY 4.1 Methodology and instrument: a survey 50
4.2 The selection of people to be interviewed 51 4.3 Research tools / Instrument 53 4.4 Data collection 54 4.5 Marriage questionnaire for the SDA Church in Malawi: data collection 54
4.5.1# Name, Gender, and Age 54 4.5.2 # Four reasons why people get marriage in your local church 55
4. 5. 3 #Three reasons that mostly cause divorce in your church 55 4.5.4 (a) # Which age group has the highest divorce rate in your church? 56 4.5.4 (b) # What are the causes? 57 4.5.5 What percentages of marriages do you think in your field (Regional offices) are successfully happy? 57 4. 5.6 (a) # What constitutes a happy marriage in your local church? 58 4.5. 6 (b) What makes some of the marriages to be unhappy in your church? 58
4.5.7 # Are there external signs to show that some marriages in your church are unhappy? If they are what are they? 59
4.5.8 # What makes many marriages unhappy? 59 4.5.9 # Are the unhappy couples aware of what makes them to have unhappy
marriages? 59 4.5.10 # What has your church done to solve marriage failure? 59
4.5.11 # Which classes of people have the highest marriage failure? 60
4.6 QUESTIONAIRE FOR THE REGIONAL COURT OFFICES
4.6.1 # (a) Names of the regional court offices 60 4.6.2 # Approximately how many marriages get divorced in each region
_a year__ages__with highest divorces___Christian ____nonreligious 61 4.6.3 # As compared to the past was there a reduction of divorces last year? 61 4.6.4 # What were the four major causes of divorces? 61
4.6.5 # What has caused the rise of divorces? 62 4.6.6 # What are the common strategies sought by the prospective divorcees to solve
their problems before divorce? 62
4.7 #Comparison between the SDA Church and the secular marriages in Malawi 62 4.8 Conclusion 63
CHAPTER 5: PROPOSED SOLUTIONS TO PREVENT OR CURE MARRIAGE FAILURE 5.1 Infidelity and adultery 64
5.1.1Feelings of the offended spouse when he/she discovers the other spouse has committed adultery 64
5.1.2 The negative impact of infidelity in the marriage relationship 64
5.1.3 Combating adultery in marriage 66
5.1.4 Healing a marriage with an adulterous spouse 70
5. 1.5 Developing your marriage to offer what could be achieved in adultery 74
5. 2 Communication 75
5. 2.1 Defining communication 75
5.2.2 The significance of communication in marriage 76
5.2. 3 Disadvantages of communication breakdown 77
5.2. 3.1 Building effective communication in marriage 77
5.2. 4 Self-disclosure 80
126.96.36.199 Barriers to self-disclosure to build effective communication 80
188.8.131.52 Disadvantages of self-disclosure 81
184.108.40.206 Advantages of self-disclosure in fostering effective communication 81
5.2.5 The use of temperaments in marriage 82
220.127.116.11 Sanguine 83 18.104.22.168 Phlegmatic 84 22.214.171.124 Choleric 85 126.96.36.199 Melancholy 86 5.2. 6 Roadblocks to communication 88 5.3 Financial misunderstanding 89 5.4 Infertility 89
5.6 Parents’ and relatives’ interference 91
5.7 Unplanned marriages and immaturity 91
5.8 Abuse 91
5.8.1 Causes of abuses 91
5.8. 2 The three cycles of abuses 92
5.8.3 Physical abuses and autocracy 93
5.8.4 Stopping physical abuses and dictatorship 94
5.8.5 Dealing with disadvantages of tolerating physical abuses and autocracy 97 5.9 Spiritual immaturity 97
5.10 The SDA Church discussions with the Malawi government about marriage98 5.11 Conclusion 98
CHAPTER 6: SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS 6.1 Guidelines for pastors 100
6.2 Summary of discoveries 104
6.3 Recommended future areas for research 106
6.4Conclusion 106 BIBLIOGRAPHY 108
SAMPLE QUESTIONNAIRES: APPENDIX 1: 117
MARRIAGE QUESTIONNAIRE FOR THE SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH IN MALAWI APPENDIX 2: 120 MARRIAGE QUESTIONNAIRE FOR THE COURTS
My heartfelt gratitude goes to several individuals who have helped me to bring to reality this research work. I firstly pass my thanks to the Principal of Adventville High School in Lesotho, Mr JT Taeli. He gave me the opportunity to do my practicals at the School. I was allowed to counsel the High School staff and the students.
I appreciate the supervision and encouragement of Pastor Levi Linake in my practical counseling. As the principal of the Bible College, husband, postgraduate student etc, he sacrificed his time to come and observe me when I was doing my practicals.
I thank all those who returned the questionnaire filled with information. It is not easy for someone to waste his/her time cracking the head answering a questionnaire. Some of the individuals who were given the questionnaire did not return them despite efforts of pursuing them. This shows how difficult it is to sit down and answer a questionnaire. May God bless the respondents for their time, energy and their willingness to answer the questionnaire.
Elsabe Nel, my subject librarian, played a very important role in this research project. She was kind enough and hardworking to search for relevant information for the research in the University of South Africa (UNISA) library. May the merciful Lord bless her for all her endeavors which contributed to this research study.
Muriel Reynolds from the Faculty of Theology (UNISA) became one of the major sources of inspiration to me towards the end of the research project when the issue of my registering cropped up. I was torn apart, mentally, hearing that I have to register before submitting the dissertation. She encouraged and advised me on what to do when my mind was bogged down.
May I thank Dr. C.J. Hugo, my supervisor, for his kind and patient advice throughout the program. In every development of the research, he has encouraged me in my studies. May the merciful Lord Jesus bestow many blessings on him in all his endeavors.
Handling this research meant depriving my wife, Florence of time, presence and financial resources. This meant that I had withdrawn part of my attention from her and focused on studies and the research. She was not offended in all this because she understood why things were so. She was patient and encouraged me during disappointing times encountered in the research study. She even helped me to proofread the work.
Thanks to Dr A. Opong from St Joseph High School in Maseru, Lesotho, who has helped me to proof-read the text. However, I am responsible for anything found in this research study.
The guidance of the merciful loving and caring God is highly appreciated in the whole research project. I thank Him for giving me an opportunity to study and fees for financing the program. Many people in their lifetime have wished to attain higher education but have failed. I do not just take this opportunity from God for granted. To God be the glory and honor.
This dissertation is dedicated to Florence Tembo, the ever-charming best friend. Through her encouragement, I have been able to pursue my educational dreams. May this document serve as one of the precious tools in building our marriage relationship. Florence, may you become sweeter every day.
CHAPTER 1: MARRIAGE FAILURE IN THE SDA CHURCH OF MALAWI 1.1 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF MARRIAGE FAILURE IN MALAWI
This empirical research was done in Malawi. The Malawi nation has a population of 9,933,868 (Malawi Population and Housing Census, 1998) with a growth rate of 2.0 % annually. The 1988 census indicated that from 3,742,162 people that were married, a total of 321,910 were divorced or separated. Some of the divorcees probably were SDA Church members. These figures indicate that 9% of the married people were divorced or separated. According to some of the information collected from the Regional court offices in Malawi, (Appendix 2), half of the cases judged per month are marriages, which end in divorce. Some marriages get divorced in homes without appearing in courts. The southern region has the highest divorce rate per year. The central region is second while the northern region ranks third.
There are more than thirty tribes in Malawi. These tribes have their own culture, which also contributes to marriage failure through inter-marriage.
Two types of marriages are practiced in Malawi. Monogamy and polygamy are practiced in both matrimonial and patrimonial societies respectively. In the matrimonial (Kraft 2003: 294) marriages, dowry is not usually paid to the parents’ bride in most societies. The husband is expected to abandon his home and stay with his wife at her home in the matrimonial system. In the patrimonial system (Kraft 2003: 294), the wife stays with her husband at his home and in most cases dowry is paid to the bride’s parents.
The history of marriage failure in Malawi can be traced to two time periods. These times are pre-colonial and post-colonial. From pre-colonial times a lot of changes have taken place in all the societies of Malawi. Morris (quoted by Kaler 2001: 530) says: “Marriage in Malawi is a fragile institution and divorce is common… and all the women I know well in Malawi have had children by several different husbands or partners”. Morris (quoted by Kaler 2001:531) continues to speak of marriage in Malawi that “marriage as an institution is presently in a crisis situation.”
Several factors contribute to the crises within marriages in Malawi. One of these is the absence of the bride’s dowry in matrimonial societies to seal the marriages. The second factor has to do with cultural ideologies when someone marries outside of his/her tribe (Kaler 2001: 531). During the colonial days, the Blantyre Native Association among the many Native Associations advocated the payment of Lobola (dowry) to the colonial government. To them (Native Associations) Lobola formed an ideal marriage; the payment of Lobola was an indication that the man takes full responsibility for the wife even though he has not bought her (Chanock 1998: 204-205). The process of modernization has created towns and cities in Malawi. People move from rural areas to urban and live individualized lives, creating new marriages, which do not require dowry. Modernization of the towns has disrupted communalism as a Malawian way of life. Young people as well as the old ones are no longer under the control of village communalism. “These changes make it hard to live in traditional ways and there is a pull between the old beliefs and … the new ways of living.”(Brooks and Yandila 1987: 13).
In the new societies created by modernization, the economy has been totally altered. In the olden days before colonization, people depended upon hunting and farming. Today money is the commodity for survival. The one, who has money, has control over the other regardless of gender (Brooks and Yandila 1987: 13,15).
Malawi is now infiltrated by new ideas, such as women liberation movements that challenge the normal treatment of women (Brooks and Yandila 1987:15). A combination of old beliefs of the status of women and the new one of equality has influenced marriage both negatively and positively.
The missionaries started education in Malawi followed by colonialists. Education has lifted the status of women in the society to a higher level. Men cannot dominate educated women anymore. Men are now afraid of educated women (Waruta 2000: 110-111). Traditional values no longer control women in today’s societies.
Education has brought a new form of marriage based on romantic love and courtship between two persons of the opposite sex. The romantic marriage is a western form of marriage. Romantic marriage has replaced “the traditional foundations of communal customs and the moral integrity of the individuals and families entering into marriage relationship” (Waruta 2000: 110).
Education “takes young people away from their homes for many years.” (Brooks and Yandila 1987: 15). As they get educated the ‘young people’ are not bound by norms and customs of the villages. They interact with people from different societies such as fellow students, lecturers and professors. This interaction changes the behavior of educated folks, which becomes different from the village customs that govern any society.
The missionaries also emphasized monogamous marriage rather than the common polygamous marriages in Malawi. This emphasis created nuclear families that became individualistic. Many of the women found themselves in a situation they could not be married because men became scarce due to monogamous relationships. The unmarried women fell in the trap of illicit relationships with married men (Waruta 2000:109).
Waruta (2000:109) says: “Sex scandals within the Christian community are common… Prostitution and teenage pregnancies continue to escalate in areas supposedly permeated by Christianity, demonstrating the general failure of the new Christian sexual morality.”
Traditional values have lost hold on the Malawian people. Many of the people are embracing “the modern life-style.” (Waruta 2000: 112).
The arrival of slave trade and Zulu invaders in Malawi from South Africa “pulled asunder strong family structures that existed before the Mfecane and before colonialism.”( Kaler 2001:532). The people of Malawi experienced wars from the Zulus and slave traders were politically disorganized. The indigenous people were forced by the situation or by the Zulus to abandon their customs that governed marriage.
Commercial sex is common in Malawi (Kaler 2001:533). The culture of sexual immorality is developing among Malawians. The Malawians in the early days of colonialism blamed the British administration for the way they treated cases of adultery. Adultery was a capital offence in Malawi before colonialism. The culprits of adultery suffered capital punishment in which they were hanged, burned in the presence of the public, and their body parts mutilated. The hash punishment prevented people from engaging in sexual immorality. The colonial administration changed the capital punishment to civil case. The British administrators punished the offenders of adultery by flogging, two years imprisonment and a fine of money. The consequence of this was an increase in adultery, which has become worse today contributing to the escalation of HIV AIDS in Malawi (Kaler 2001:533, Chanock 1998:196).
The colonial government blamed the matrimonial societies for higher divorce rate. It was observed that men were not willing to work hard for their wives because they were afraid that they could be chased away by their in laws and wives anytime. In matrimonial societies, marriage is unstable and divorce is frequent since 1940 (Kaler 2001:530, 531).
Today, young people enter into marriage informally and casually. They are not seriously concerned about their marriages. Parents are sometimes not involved in the marriage arrangements. The boy and girl enter into marriage without involving the community (Kaler 2001:537-539).
The migrant labor in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), hut tax demanded by the colonial government, as well as famines have contributed to marriage failure in Malawi. Husbands tend to stay abroad longer. In their absence, they may not be sending money to their wives. As a result women may turn to prostitution to earn a living (Kaler 2001: 539, 543). The above marriage crises have also influenced the SDA Church.
Colonialism, “the influence of western missionary Christianity … education, the new socio-economic realities, and the increased mobility and urbanization” (Waruta 2000: 108) have greatly affected and altered contemporary marriage in Malawi. Thus many of
the traditional values have been eroded. All the factors that have been discussed above, so far; have affected the SDA Church in one way or another.
1.2 MARRIAGE FAILURE IN THE SDA CHURCH OF MALAWI
This topic deals with the SDA church theology of marriage. The SDA Church had a membership of 237,519 at the end of September, 2004 (Chilunga 2004). Monogamy is the only accepted form of marriage in the Church. This type of marriage is allowed to be practiced in the matrimonial and patrimonial systems in the SDA Church. According to the SDA Church Theology, “In lands where polygamy is lawful, the Christian church often finds it difficult to apply the principle of monogamy. However, even in these countries, monogamy is held as a marital ideal.”(Rock 2000:728). In the Malawian case, only the monogamous marriage is allowed. Anyone who marries the second wife, has his name removed from the church membership. Those in polygamous marriages are allowed to attend the church, but cannot be baptized or be accepted as full-fledged members.
The SDA Church was started in Malawi by the American missionaries. The first missionaries advocated monogamous marriages.
Marriage failure leads to divorce if remedies fail to restore the damaged marriage. Thus, cultural forces and the colonial background have contributed to the formation of shaky marriages in the church. Many marriages in the Church are fractured.
The church allows a person to remarry for the following three reasons. The first one is when his/her spouse has died. The second reason is when one spouse commits adultery. Lastly, the spouse would be allowed to remarry when he she/he has been abandoned by the unbelieving spouse. The church encourages that earnest endeavors be made so that the spouses reconcile. Spouses have to be taught to forgive and restore each other (Seventh Day Adventist Church Manual 2005:204). The church is silent on how to deal with the erring spouse that is found HIV positive.
The church teaches that the marriage of Adam and Eve was intended to be a model “for all future marriages.” (Seventh Day Adventist Church Manual 2005:204). The Manual however does not explain what was to be a pattern for future marriages. The major patterns advised by the church is monogamous, a covenant relationship of love.
To a certain extent, I would say that the marriage of Adam and Eve fails to be a pattern for future marriages because firstly they did not have in-laws. Secondly, their environment was not the same as today. For example there were no political or government regulations that interfered with their marriage. They had not experienced colonialism, economic hardships, current liberation movements etc, as contemporary marriages. Marriages that came after Adam and Eve’s and modern marriages have some challenges that are similar. However, there are some challenges that modern marriages face in Malawi and the church, which Adam and Eve did not face.
1.3 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
From observation in SDA Churches during camp meetings, where I was either one of the guest speakers or attendants, many couples came for counseling. Some of these couples seem to be in good regular standing with the SDA church. Couples who have problems in their relationships fail to relate effectively to God, the church, fellow believers, etc. Married couples with marital problems become harsh, gloomy, prostitutes and may encounter psychological problems. Some continue to stay in the marriage because of their children. They are married theoretically but do not relate to each other as husband and wife. This problem is growing rather than declining. There was a time when church members feared to be divorced, but today some take it as normal. Fractured marriages heavily affect the church negatively. The couples affected feel as if God is no longer taking control of their situations and doubt His existence. Nominalism creeps up in the affected family. The door to temptations by Satan is then opened (1 Cor. 7:5). What happens in the current marriage may be transferred to the next generations. Children reared in such a home where there is much bickering also may often reproduce the same type of homes. A divorced couple may have children who are potential divorcees. It has been said: “Children of divorced parents are likely to experience divorce themselves”
(Balswick and Balswick 1989:264). Van Pelt (1982:162) says: “Most likely the pattern you have already learned, you will carry into your own marriage. If you were raised in a family of constant bickering between parents, brothers and sisters, you will probably carry the same behavior over to your relationship”.
Broken marriages destroy good reputation and bring shame to the church. Outsiders claim that the SDA Church does not teach her members well in issues related to marriage. Those who want to join the church are repelled because they think the SDA Church does not contribute positively to marriage relationships.
Fractured marriages have existed in the SDA Church in Malawi for a long period of time. The creeping in of the western influences in education, human rights and media in Malawi worsen the growth of marriage failure. Some church members pretend to have no marriage problems whereas in fact, behind the doors, there is chaos.
Van Pelt (1982:20-21) has lamented the failure of educational institutions and churches and their negligence to prepare the “young people” for their marriages. According to her, “the main reason” for marriage failure is “lack of preparation” (Van Pelt 1982:20-21). This “lack of preparation” means lack of training of the “young people” concerning marriage. If the church and educational institutions are failing to prepare the youth for their marriages, what can be done to help them fulfill their duty to teach the young people about marriage? Just blaming them without giving them advice cannot resolve the problem.
Couples who experience marriage failure could also be blamed for failing to successfully manage their marriages. However, many of these couples may not have knowledge about how to run their marriages. If the SDA Church and its institutions do not teach them then there is no way out for them apart from groping in ignorance which may lead to marriage failure. There is a need to provide alternative teaching for church members about marriage.
The major problem in this research is to find and suggest ways of maintaining and enriching marriages in the SDA Church. Four functions have been devised to accomplish tasks. Firstly, it is to identify and discuss factors that contribute to marriage fracture and failure in the SDA Church. Secondly, I will give a comprehensive description of the traditional view of marriage. Thirdly, I will make recommendations to solve the prevailing problems in marriage. Lastly, I will suggest an example of a Christian model of marriage.
Better marriage education and focused counseling will contribute to a reduction of marriage failure in the SDA Church in Malawi.
I will use three methods in this research. Firstly, in this research, I will use an exploratory descriptive study. Secondly, I will use the first method with a personal anecdotal-illustrative method. Thirdly, I will do a survey as part of this research study. Lastly, I will operate in the “second world” described by Mouton (2001:138). This world is called a “world of science and scientific research” to inquire and systematize about marriage (Mouton 2001:138). These methods will help me to tie together many of the themes that will be discussed. There will be an exploration of different kinds of marriages to formulate a Christian model.
Since I am dealing with marriage related to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, I needed many books from the authors that belong to the church. It has not been easy for me to find such books written on SDA marriage.
“Practically all Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs are held by one or more Christian groups” (Knight e.d. 2003: 21). Many of the views on marriage of the SDA Church are similar to
those of some Christian churches. I have used books, which are similar to the beliefs of the SDA Church on marriage.
1.8 RELEVANCE OF THE STUDY
The researcher aims at creating an awareness of how marriages can be maintained and enriched in the SDA Church. This dissertation will become a tool for pastors, scholars, members of the SDA Church and others who do not belong to the SDA Church. Various people will be enlightened by various issues discussed in the dissertation. They will be guided on how to counsel people in different types of marriages. Those contemplating marriage will have a reservoir of knowledge to draw for successful marriages.
The research study is also a personal enrichment in knowledge and in my marriage. As a minister, I am confronted with couples that need counseling on marriage issues. With the knowledge gained in this research I will be able to minister to married and unmarried couples effectively.
This dissertation will provide resource material for marriage. It will alleviate the scarcity of marriage books.
In this chapter, I have discussed how the traditional marriage in Malawi had been disrupted by western education, missionaries, colonialism, the Zulu invaders, and the economic migration to South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). These factors have heavily affected the traditional marriage in Malawi, producing high levels of fornication, adultery, commercial sex and divorce.
The changes brought to the traditional marriage through modernization, have negatively affected the SDA Church marriages. The marriage problems that the SDA Church members have affect their relationship with Christianity and their faith in God. The marriage problems discussed above create a negative image of the SDA Church to the
non-believers that the church wants to win to its fold. It is the hypothesis of this dissertation that education and more focused counseling could produce better marriages.
The approach to this research study has been identified. It has been formulated as the exploratory approach together with personal anecdotal-illustration.
The scarcity of books, the failure of the SDA Church and its educational institutions in teaching the people has been discussed. Needless to say, therefore, that this study will be an important documentation for marriage maintenance in the SDA Church.
CHAPTER 2: RESEARCH OF MARRIAGE FAILURE AS PRACTICAL THEOLOGICAL RESEARCH
2.1 DEFINING PRACTICAL THEOLOGY
Practical Theology is one of the fields of theological study. It is that part of theology that concerns itself with this event- the encounter between God and humanity- and particularly with the role of human beings in this encounter (Heyns and Pieterse 1990:6). Other fields of study in theology such as New Testament (NT) and the Old Testament (OT) concentrate on the text and its correct interpretation by the preacher. The OT and NT focus understands a text whereas the practical theologian aims at knowing “whether the preacher understands the audience and its contexts properly, their experiential and thought worlds, their hopes, fears and experience of God in order that he may communicate the message effectively.” (Heyns and Pieterse 1990:7).
2.2 PRACTICAL THEOLOGY AS DIALOGUE BETWEEN MARRIAGE COUNSELORS WITH MARRIED COUPLES
There are two groups of dialogue in the theology of marriage, who are marriage counselors and the married couples. Marriage, as a Practical Theology research in this research, engages marriage counselors and married people in practice and dialogue. Practice builds theory and knowledge. This research provides a theory and knowledge which may be put into practice by married people and marriage counselors.
Theology-based marriage means that the principles practiced in marriage should have an origin in Theology. Marriage theology should be transformed into practice while the dialogue takes place with marriage counselors who belong to practical theology.
It is necessary that the Bible, Theology, and social sciences be combined together to form practices that should guide better marriage practices.
2.3 APPROACHES IN PRACTICAL THEOLOGY
2.3.1 THE CONTEXTUAL APPROACH
This approach engages practical theologies that were born as the answer to the problems that people are experiencing. Some of these theologies are Black Theology, which had its origins in South Africa and North America, Liberation Theology which had its origins in Latin America and the Feminist Theology, which had its origins in the United States. Feminist Theology has revolted against many of the practices done by patriarchal or traditional marriage.
These theologies were suspicious that western Theologians interpreted theology to suit their own interests. Hence these theologians decided to formulate their own theology, which could suit their own interests in their own contexts (Bosch 1991:424).
These theologians did not accept their situations of poverty and oppression as legitimate. They engaged themselves to get out of suffering and poverty by doing theology. They were aiming at changing their status in the world (Bosch 1991:424). In this research, the context is the traditional marriage in Malawi.
2.3.2 THE PARTICIPATORY APPROACH
This approach uses the Contextual Approach’s methodologies. Practical theologians suggest that everyone living in the community, and not only theologians, should be able to do practical theology. Day by day experiences lived by the people in different communities is the focus of Practical Theology (Poling 1991:186) in this research.
2.3.4 THE CONFESSIONAL APPROACH
This approach derives its norms from the Bible. The social sciences are of secondary importance. The services of the church are considered to be central to practical theology. Training of ministers in the Reformed theology is a very important work to be done in this approach of practical theology (Van Wyk 1995: 88).
The praxis of this research is “The art of maintaining a successful marriage in the Seventh Day Adventist Church.” The Confessional Approach to Practical Theology is the approach used in this research. The Bible and social sciences have been used to offer possible solutions to problems identified by empirical research. The solutions from the Bible are in relation to the beliefs and practices of the SDA Church.
Thus, primarily, the Bible and confessions of the church have been integrated with social science perspectives to offer solutions for the art of maintaining a successful marriage.
2.4 CLAIMS OF PRACTICAL THEOLOGY
Firstly, Practical Theology has established itself in the “theory of praxis” …with right actions, with correct way of doing things” (Janson 1982:311). Thereafter, Practical Theology has added to the discipline the concern for “the knowledge of procedural rules” (Janson 1982:311). Schleiermacher thought that philosophy and theological history should be used as a reservoir of knowledge to be sought in Practical Theological application. Philosophy and theology were the sources of the academic studies for Schleiermacher (Heitink 1993:23, 27-28). The time it became a university discipline, Practical Theology concerned itself with the practice of the theories it taught.
Secondly, Practical Theology claims itself as a science. “To be a science and to be scientific, it must have its own object of study, its own method, its own theory, all which studied and developed, researched and theorized”. This is refraining from “merely oiling the church machinery and having more to do with it” (Janson 1982:312).
Thirdly, Practical Theology claimed itself as a theological discipline. To be theological, it must speak about God. The third claim clarifies the activities of Practical Theology that should be concerned with theological issues. In such issues “God’s acts in which man and every dimension of his existence-personal and social, spiritual and physical- are involved” (Janson 1982:322).
Fourthly, after the Second World War, Practical Theology opened doors for Pastoral Counseling as part of the discipline. Psychological methods have been appropriated to enable Pastoral Counseling to be well-established in marriage counseling (Janson 1982:311).
Fifthly, Practical Theology analyses the empirical data that it collects from the research. Practical Theology has to “continually scrutinize and assess the praxis”(Janson 1982:316). It should involve itself in the hermeneutic in the “exposition of the biblical message” (Janson 1982:317). With the additional claims said above, Practical Theology aims to bring relevance of the message and its activities to its communities.
In the issues that involve the society, “Practical Theology cannot remain neutral: it must have a particular interest in society, a political interest - so that here we might as well label Practical Theology ‘political theology” (Janson 1982:319). In political theology, Practical Theology concerns itself with the liberation of the suffering and the oppressed.
2.5 TASKS OF PRACTICAL THEOLOGY
I will outline five tasks of Practical Theology. “The task of practical theology is not to discover the clear and distinct ideas of truth to which communities must conform their lives. Rather the task of practical theology is to discover more adequate ways of articulating the depth, richness, and possibilities of life as they are found in concrete communities” (Poling and Miller 1985).
Firstly, at this stage, there is a focus “visional or metaphoric” (Browning 1987:42). The focus of the first stage is on the development of faith in members. Developing good practices is also important for the faith of church members. The church structures are made in such a way that their praxis result in the development of their faith.
Secondly, this stage is the obligational level, which centers on moral development. At this stage there should be an internalization of values. The target is to transform the individuals into the community of faith (Browning 1987:94).
Thirdly, there is a tendency of needs. The focus here is the development of emotions. The “emotional development is the subject pole and faith development, the object pole of the self –world interaction or dialectic that marks the nature of experience” (Browning 1987:92, 95).
Fourthly, the context plays a very important role in the development of the ego. The cognitive process in learning plays a very important role. Browning (1987:95-96) says, “At level 4, knowledge of a sociological, ecological, or economic kind about our contexts is more properly informational than the kinds of knowledge required at the three higher levels of character formation”.
Lastly, the fifth task is called “Rule-Role” which is also called “Rule-Role Development”. When we reach “the last level, we learn roles and concrete rules most-easily when we actually enact them” (Browning 1987:92, 96).
These five tasks of practical theology are not exhaustive. However, they should be integrated. They should become “the primary goal of theological education within the Seminary to educate practical theological thinkers and actors” (Browning 1987:96). Rules should be practiced in a marriage relationship. Each spouse has to know the role that has to be played.
In this chapter, I have defined and discussed the approaches of Practical Theology, and lastly, the tasks of Practical Theology.
The Confessional Approach has been chosen as the approach in Practical Theology through which this research will be conducted.
Practical Theology aims at presenting the message to the marriage couples who live in church and society in skillful ways. The skilful presentation will lead to the expected
outcome. The major outcome is the transformation of the society to have faith in God. Lastly, Practical Theology provides methods of how people can practice their faith in the church and in the communities.
The next chapter develops the foundations and characteristics of the biblical Christian marriage. This chapter also gives guidelines for the successful Christian marriage.
CHAPTER 3: A BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN MODEL OF MARRIAGE
In this chapter the researcher will present his own interpretation of the Bible and an interpretation of the Greco-Roman ideas of marriage to develop a model of Christian marriage. The chapter responds to some problems caused by the interference of parents and relatives in marriage such as lack of love and interfaith marriages among others.
3.1. BASIC CONCEPTS OF MARRIAGE
3.1.1 PATRIACHAL MARRIAGE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
In the OT, the man in marriage was master or baal and Lord to his wife. Sarah called Abraham’ my master and Lord’ (Gen. 18:12). Baal is an “epithet of Yahweh, for baal means master …” (de Vaux 1978:45). In both the OT and NT, the wife “addressed him, in fact as a slave addressed his master, or a subject to his king” (de Vaux 1978:39). This was a patriarchal marriage in which the husband ruled his wife as father, or a king rules his subjects. The wife was to submit without question. It was blind submission. It was a marriage not on equal basis. The man had more privileges than his wife or wives. He could divorce her, have extramarital affairs, make decisions for the wife, while she could not divorce him (Deut. 24:1, Mark 10:12). Divorces were common among the Jewish people.
Esau, Jacob, and Abraham were all polygamists (Gen. 26:34; 29-30). These polygamous marriages had their own practices. During the time of Moses (Deut. 24), marriages had several practices, which were still carried on in the time of Jesus. One of the Pharisees asked Jesus the validity of all these practices in accordance with God’s word (Matt. 19:3-9). To answer the question, Jesus bypassed all the practices done by the Old Testament heroes. He quoted the first monogamous marriage in the Garden of Eden between Adam and Eve as valid. By so doing He rejected the heroes marriages, that they were not according to God’s will of the monogamous marriage established at the beginning of the world. The great Old Testament men such as Abraham, Jacob, and David violated monogamous marriage by marrying many wives. This does not annul the premarital chastity of God’s plan that He had designed for human sexuality.
Apart from monogamous marriage, the Bible describes polygamous marriage. The first polygamist mentioned in the Bible was Lameck (Gen. 4:19). Lameck describes his polygamous experience as similar to someone who is wounded (Gen.4: 23). Biblical heroes like King Saul, David and Solomon were polygamists (2 Sam. 3: 2-5; 1 Kings 11:1-8). Israel was “a society that tolerated polygamy, the possession of a large harem was a mark of wealth and power. It was also a luxury that few could afford, and it became a privilege of kings. Saul had at least one concubine ( 2 Sam. 3:7), and elsewhere there is mention of his wives ( 2 Sam. 12:8). Even when David was reigning in Hebron, he already had six wives (2 Sam. 5:13, 2 Sam.19:6), including Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:27). When he fled from Absalom he left ten concubines in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 15: 16; 16:21-22; 20:3). According to 2 Sam. ch 11:21, Roboam (Rehoboam) had eighteen wives and sixty concubines” (de Vaux 1978:115). Kraft (2003:306) says: “In Jewish and many traditional societies to this day, however, polygamy is considered legitimate marriage, not adultery”.
3.1.2 MARRIAGE IN THE INTER-TESTAMENTAL TIMES
In the intertestamental times imposed a lot of restrictions on married women and virgins. “It was considered preferable for a woman, and especially an unmarried girl, not to go out at all … It was suitable for women to stay indoors and to live in retirement” (Jeremias 1969:360).
A woman was not allowed to greet a man in public, not even her own relatives. If she did so, she was considered a prostitute. A husband was allowed to divorce her if she was greeted by men in public (Jeremias 1969:360). The same practices were found among the Greco-Roman cultures (Kretzschmar 2001:41). The first century marriage practices were even more radical than the OT, when women or girls were allowed to go outside and even become shepherds (1Song of Solomon 1).
Marriage in the Jewish setting was entered upon without love. “Young people did not normally decide whom they would marry. It was marriage first and love afterwards” (Gower 1987:64).
3.1.3 THE GREEK AND ROMAN MARRIAGE
The Greeks and Romans had colonized the Jews. This topic compares the Jewish marriages to the two empires that had colonized them. As far as marriage was concerned, the Jews were extreme compared to Greek and the Roman marriages. The Jews were allowed to divorce their wives anytime they wished. “The Greek ideal (even though not always practiced) was that marriage to one’s wife is for eternity” (Kraft 2003:306). The Romans did not practice polygamous marriages. In most cases “having more than one wife was illegal in the Roman Empire” (Getz 1988:146). Major similarities between Greco-Roman marriages and Jews are: Firstly, men had “authority over women in all matters outside the home and with ultimate authority within the home as well” (Kraft 2003:325). Secondly, women were excluded from the public. Thirdly, women were to serve men rather than men serving them. Lastly, women were regarded as of low status to men.
In the first century, the Greeks and the Romans legally allowed monogamous marriage to be practiced among their people. Moreover, they were allowed to marry concubines (Hastings 1975:8).
3.1.4 MARRIAGE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT TIMES
Many of the restrictions imposed on marriage in the intertestamental times were the ones that guided marriages in the NT era. The cultural practices of the intertestamental period, regarding the relationship of a man and woman, affected even the early Christian church. For example, women were not counted (Matt. 14:21). They were chattels. Women called their husbands baal, the term used by wives in the OT (de Vaux 1978:45; Eph. 5:22).
The NT teaching of Jesus and Paul advocated a monogamous marriage (Matt.19: 5-6; 1 Cor. 7:3-4; Eph.5:23). The Greek and Roman law that people in their provinces should
marry one wife influenced the monogamous marriage in NT (Hastings 1978:8).
“… Judaism in Jesus’ time… had a very low opinion of women …”(Jeremias 1969:374). Women were excluded from the public. “The woman’s position in the house corresponded to this seclusion from public life. In their father’s house daughters came behind the sons” (Jeremias 1969: 371). The woman had an inferior status equivalent to a slave. If the husband owes someone, the wife could be sold to pay the debt. The woman was even lower to her own sons born to her. The wife was similar to any property the man owned (Jeremias 1969:363; 371).
Universally, among the Jews, it was held and believed that women were inferior to men (Morris 1990:202). Women were not recruited as disciples in the rabbinic order. The rabbis “did not teach women” (Morris 1990:202). Rabbis regarded the teaching of women to be sin (Morris 1990:202).
In the first century, “it was a scandal for a man to appear in public with a woman. A woman’s word was considered useless in court. It was better to burn a copy of the Torah than to allow a woman to touch it” (Sider 1992: A-86). In other words, women were not used as witnesses among the Jews in the first century.
The spiritual aspect of marriage was denied to a woman. In other words the man was exposed to the spiritual teaching of marriage and other spiritual resources whereas women were not. Their marriages were not a model of the covenant marriage propagated for God’s people.
3.1.5 JESUS’ REACTION TO THE TREATMENT OF WOMEN IN THE FIRST CENTURY
Jesus rejected male prejudice. He “treated women as equals. Jesus appeared with women in public (John 4:27). He allowed a woman that everybody knew was a sinner to wash his feet with tears, wipe them … kiss and perfume them – all in public!” (Sider 1992:A-86).
This is a model that should be emulated by any man, showing to how he should treat his wife and the other women.
3.1. 6 TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE IN MALAWI
In Malawi, many of the people have practiced the traditional marriage which, to a certain extent, is similar to patriarchal marriage. Some Christian churches that advocated for one-man one-wife broke away from the polygamist marriage but still retained the mastership of the husband as in the OT setting. The wife is not equal to the husband. She has to kneel before the husband, exempted from decision making in the marriage etc. Refusing to kneel is counted as disrespect, and the husband is free to divorce her. The durability of the marriage is tied to her if she conforms to traditional values. The traditional or
patriarchal marriage fails to meet the standards of the Christian marriage. God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), polygamy (1 Cor. 7:1-2), and inequality (Eph. 5:21) etc. The Bible (Gen. 24; 29) describes dowry that patriarchs practiced but there is no command from God that the husband or wife has to pay it. God did not command Adam to pay dowry for his wife, Eve (Gen. 2:18-24).
Men and women or opposite sexes are not culturally separated from each other as in Greek, Roman and Jewish societies of the first century. They attend school, work, shop together, and attend entertainment together. Such mixture of opposite sexes has its values such as giving chances for the unmarried people in the choice of partners, learning the behavior of the opposite sexes etc. Some negative influences are that the mixture of opposite sexes leads to women abuse, rape, sexual immorality etc because of the proximity of the two sexes.
3.1.7 MODERN DEVIATIONS FROM THE LEGAL BIBLE MARRIAGE
In the contemporary world “gays and lesbians are pressing for the recognition of their sexual orientation as acceptable alternatives to heterosexuality within the Christian community” (Rice 1997:127). The Bible says: “Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with a womankind, it is abomination”(Lev. 18:22, Authorized King James Version). Such types of people were surely to be put to death in the OT times (Lev. 20:13). The practice
of homosexuality was also present in Sodom (Gen. 19). The NT also condemns the practice (Rom. 1:26; 1 Cor. 6:9). The original institution of marriage in Eden was between opposite sexes (Gen. 2:24-25), not same sexes.
There is also a modern marriage called the open marriage found commonly in the United States. The partners practice self-pleasure and do not submit to each other (Balswick and Balswick 1989: 80). The Bible requires partners in the Christian marriage to submit to each other (Eph. 5:21). They are expected to be concerned with the well-being of each other (Gal. 6:2).
Cohabitation is also found most commonly in the United States. The couples live together before they are officially married. They may even have children out of wedlock. The Bible condemns fornication (Jude 7; 1 Cor. 6:9). The couple should be wedded officially. Vows should be exchanged made to each in the church. At the officially wedded
marriage, God Himself becomes the unseen bridegroom (Mal. 2:14).
3.1.8 LEGAL CONTRACTS OF MARRIAGE
The first marriage was formed by three persons: God, Adam, and Eve. Any marriage, be it secular or Christian, is contracted by three persons. God guided Adam and Eve’s marriage from the beginning. Once God has been displaced, His place is taken over by the devil (Rom. 6:16). Figure 1 describes the marriage of Adam and Eve at the beginning.
Eve Adam Covenant Marriage
The presence of God in a marriage brings positive results but the presence of Satan brings negative results. No marriage can be successful without God. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1 RSV).
The above model is an example of secular marriage.
The signing of a legal contract agreement between the political government or secular authorities and the married couples forms a secular marriage. Anyone that does not belong to Christ forms a secular marriage (Rom. 8:9; 1 John 5:19). The unconverted person is under the direct control of the devil (Rom. 8:9). Political systems of governments are under the control of the devil (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19). The newly married couple is required to abide by the rules of the political government or traditional authority. What regulates the secular marriage are rules and norms of the political government and traditional rules (tribal rules). Thus the government stipulates do’s and don’ts for the couple. The society has unwritten rules for the couple. Each couple is obliged to fulfill certain expectations. The success of marriage is determined by whether the couple abides by the stipulations of the political government or the traditional society. The legal contract, which the married couple signs, has no representative who signs on behalf of God. His place is then taken over by the secular authorities of secular marriage.
3.1.9 DEFINITION OF THE BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE
Defining the Christian marriage is not an easy task. Some people think that because they are Christians their marriages are Christian. To them for a marriage to qualify as
Marriage Secular authorities
Christian, partners should belong to a Christian denomination. The following are some six definitions of a Christian marriage:
Firstly, Wayne Oates from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said: “Marriage is a covenant of responsible love, a fellowship of repentance and forgiveness”(Oates in Wright 1980:6).
Secondly, Dwight Small defines the Christian marriage as a “One new life existent in two persons” (Small in Wright 1980:5).
Thirdly, Elton Trueblood says a Christian marriage is “A system by means of which persons who are sinful and contentious are caught up by a dream and purpose bigger than themselves that they work through the years, in spite of repeated disappointment, to make the dream come true” (Trueblood in Wright 1980:5-6).
Fourthly, David Hubbard who was the Fuller Theological Seminary President in the 1980s, defined Christian marriage as “an institution of sinners … it finds its fullest glory when sinners see it as God’s way of leading us through His ultimate curriculum and righteousness” (Hubbard in Wright 1980:6).
Fifthly, the Mennonite minister, David Augsburger says: “The Christian understands marriage as a covenant made under God and in the presence of fellow members of the Christian family” (Augsburger in Wright 1980:5).
Lastly, Norman Wright (1980:5) asserts that marriage can be called Christian when the husband and wife have the third person named Jesus in their relationship.
The six definitions given above do not fully define Christian marriage. Wayne Oates (in Wright 1980: 5) and David Augsburger (in Wight 1980:5) use the word covenant as identification for Christian marriage. The Longman Dictionary of English (1995:317) defines covenant as “a formal agreement between two or more people”. This definition
does include God as one of the parties in the covenant. It was an arrangement done between one person or a group and another group. However, “The notion of covenant, then, implies that the parties establish a relationship that is sealed by means of an oath. The oath is binding and involves certain obligations as well as promises of certain blessings” (Kretzschmar 2001:87). The covenant in Christian marriage is made between the Christian husband and wife in the church when the two take oaths before the minister and the congregation. The covenant is made by the two who get married before God who is the third party in the relationship (Flowers and Flowers 2004:41).
The heathens as well as the Israelites had covenants between them. In today’s world, a covenant can be defined as the unchanged memorandum of understanding formulated by two groups or more. To be a Christian covenant, it has to include God as the other party. (I am using the word “covenant” in this research to include an agreement between God, man and the woman). The covenant was used amongst the secular people as well as the chosen people of Israel. Thus a covenant, even though necessary in forming a Christian marriage, is not adequate.
Dwight Small’s (in Wright 1980:5) definition is general in that both unbelievers and Christians, when they have married, form a new life. Small does not define how the oneness of life is formed between the married male and female who have different backgrounds, and their different behavior due to their gender. The two who form a new life have not been identified in the definition of small (in Wright 1980:5). It leaves us to speculate who the two persons might be, such as two homosexuals, man and woman etc.
David Hubbard’s (in Wright 1980:6) definition is also too general because everyone in this planet is a sinner. It does not give us the genders that marry. It can also mean marriages between homosexuals who are also sinners. It does not specify how many spouses a person can marry.
Norman Wright’s (1980) definition is close to the reality. However, it misses two necessary ingredients for a Christian relationship; which are companionship and covenant
(Proverbs 2:17). The correct definition is that a Christian marriage is a companionship, and covenant relationship between three people: Jesus, the husband, and the wife. This is a “heterosexual monogamy-marriage involving …one male one female” (Rice 1997:126).
To be called Christian a marriage must be built on Christian values of equality. The marriage that advocates hierarchical values falls short of the Christian level. Christian marriage has to provide “permanent companionship” (Landis 1975:5). “Marriage is a union of two persons on a spiritual level” Jack Rozell (1995:211). Many marriages in the Christian churches propagate traditional values. The man behaves as master that rules with decrees. The wife relates to her husband as the slave does to her master.
God expects spouses to share their lives in common. They have to help each other and meet the needs of each other. They are expected to live in partnership (Kretzschmar 2001:86). The partners should have mutual privileges in the marriage relationship (1 Cor. 7:3-4).
3.1.10 THREE STEPS IN BUILDING A CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE
The theory of the three steps in building Christian marriage comes from the Bible (Gen. 2:24). From the beginning of the first marriage, God gave three steps that the marriage has to be built on in order to be successful (Genesis 2:24). These steps are leaving, cleaving, and lastly becoming one flesh. This order should be followed without skipping or alternating. The diagram below illustrates the stages to be followed:
TWO BECOME ONE FLESH
The goal of Genesis (2:24) is that the husband and wife should become one flesh. One steps leads to another. The failure to move from one step (leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh) to another leads to disengaged marriages. Barriers will have been set between the parties. Divorce becomes inevitable.
Norman Wright (1980:9) selects two words in Genesis (2:24) which are “leave and cleave”. Norman Wright (1980:9) says: “The word ‘leave’ means to abandon, forsake, to sever one relationship before establishing another. Unfortunately, many individuals do not make this break. They leave home physically but remain there psychologically. The attachment to home and parents should be replaced with one’s mate. This does not mean disregarding or dishonoring one’s parents, but rather breaking a tie” from one’s parents and assuming the responsibility of caring for the spouse. God expects the two that form a new marriage to enter into the work of destroying the ties that join them tightly to their parents. Just as the midwives do at the labor ward, when a new baby is born, in cutting the umbilical cord, the two should detach or cut any physical connection with their parents.
Norman Wright (1980:9) turns again to the word ‘cleave’. He says it “means to weld, grip or adhere together. When a man “cleaves” to his wife, they become one flesh. The term “one flesh” is a beautiful capsule description of the oneness, completeness and permanence God intended in a marriage relationship. “One flesh” suggests a unique oneness – a total commitment to intimacy in all life together, symbolized by sexual union”. Children cleave to their parents from fertilization in their mother’s womb. Some of them only want to be touched by their mother. They don’t want to be touched by
strangers. Once a stranger touches them, they feel insecure and run to their parents for protection. They cleave to their parents. God wants this cleaving that a child has to her/his own parents to be done to the spouse in marriage. As a child looks to parents for safety, the newly married couples should look to each other for everything else in life.
Mitchell (1980:26) says: “The Biblical purpose of marriage is oneness … The Hebrew word for ‘one’ used in this verse refers to a composite unity – a unity that consists of more than one person, but that produces a blending of persons into a mysterious and wonderful unity. It literally means the two shall become one person”. Jesus also emphasized the teaching of Genesis (2:24) that they should be leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh.
Leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh should be done in three areas namely physically, psychologically, and emotionally. There is no cleaving if there is no leaving. There is no becoming one flesh if there is no cleaving.
Each spouse has a responsibility to see to it that she/he leaves her/his own parents and family to cleave and become one flesh with the partner. The parents of each of them are put on the top priority of their list before marriage. After marriage, the spouse should take the top priority list occupied by one’s parents. Physically, the newly married spouse should vacate from the parents’ house and establish their own house. They should not relocate in one of the father’s room as the Jewish custom (Jeremias 1969:368). Leaving should make the new family independent from the parent’s house rules and control. They should move their own belongings from the father’s house to their own new home.
The new spouses should know that their former homes were governed by rules and these should not be transferred by each of them to their marriage. They have to sit down together and make rules that will govern them. They are independent from their parents. It is necessary that they should equally contribute to the making of the rules. No one should dominate the other.
The Biblical Law requires children to obey their parents, then secondarily to respect them (Col.3: 20; Ex. 20:13; Eph. 6:1-3). This type of respect and obedience has its own boundary in life. Parents have to be given this respect by a child when he or she is not married. Once in marriage young women are to transfer their first obedience and respect to the spouse (Eph. 5:22,24). Parents deserve high respect more than anyone else with the exception of God. As a child leaves his or her home, she or he should carry obedience and respect and give them to the spouse.
Moving out physically helps the new spouses to have time for each other and avoid interferences from parents, brothers, sisters and relatives who may be offended to see the couple kiss, hug, sleep on each other’s bosom etc, in the African culture. The newly married couple should also understand that parents also need good time together to sustain their own love affair between each other. Some acts like kissing, playing etc cannot be easily done in the presence of their children. Leaving the home physically gives benefits to parents and the children’s marriage so that they are both free in their own homes.
Strong successful families “Desire to spend time together. Strong families do a lot of things together… Another important point is that these families actively structure their life-styles so that they can spend time together” (Cox 1990:5). Developing a marriage relationship needs enough time together. In spending time together, the couples will have a chance of knowing the needs of each other and devise means of restructuring their lifestyles to meet those particular needs.
It is also important that the new couples leave their homes psychologically and be blended to their spouses. They should cleave to their spouses in their thinking. They should think more of their spouses than any other. Their emotions should accompany the physical leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh. Thus the three aspects (physical, psychological, and emotional) should move hand in hand from stage 1 up to stage 3. None should be left behind at each stage.
Many scholars, as demonstrated above, concern themselves, with interpreting “leaving” mainly from parents. It has been understood that “leaving” in the modern context goes further than simply “leaving” the parents. Adam and Eve did not have fiancées before their marriage, as it is today. The modern context demands that before engagement the prospective married couples must abandon their former spouses. The text (Gen. 2:2-24) would have further demanded that in future the married couple must not have any dealings with their former fiancées. In other words the text would have advised that prospective couple end any close attachments and form their strongest attachment between them.
After “leaving” the other relationships, some couples bring to their new relationship a load. Luecke (1983:183) says: “People move into marriage carrying a load of “baggage”- often more than is realized. Such baggage includes attitudes, opinions, and values on such issues as the use of money, importance of status, social causes, politics, sociability, choice of friends, sex roles, parenting methods, work, play, use of leisure time, religion and much more”. Such baggages, if not blended with those of the spouse, cause friction at the end of the day. Each couple should be aware of the baggage carried by the other. Luecke (1983:183) further advises that “such accumulated attitudes, opinions, and values from the past need to blend with those of the partner. At times, the combined baggage may fit easily together; at other times adjustments are needed and sometimes the conflicts may seem irreconcilable”.
No one can easily know the contents of the cultural baggage of the other. Most of the cultural baggages are unwritten. They are known through interaction. Even though the owner can explain his/her own cultural baggage, it cannot be fully known. However, it does not mean that you have to abandon the contents of the unknown baggage. It has to be a duty of both to continue investigating each other, and keep on searching for any cultural baggage that has been discovered.
3.1.11 THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE AS A COVENANT
As already said elsewhere Christian marriage is a covenant between God, man and a woman (Pro. 2:17; Mal. 2:14). As a covenant: “Marriage is to be permanent, for life. When two become one flesh, there is to be no division, no severing, because of the irreparable damage that will occur” Norman Wright (1980:11). ‘Leave’ and ‘cleave’ (Gen. 2:24) are covenant words. ‘Leave’ means the shifting of authority from one person to another. The man has to abandon his loyalty to his parents or guardians to start another relationship with his wife. After leaving his parents he has to unite with his wife. The unity was established by oaths or vows which enforce and cement the marriage covenant (Heth 2006:60-61).
God is displeased when the marriage covenant is broken (Mal. 2:16). As a covenant, marriage should be entered with unconditional commitment between the couple. The breaking of a covenant marriage results in the breaking of hearts (Lowery 2002:86).
In the essence of a marriage covenant “Two become one. “I” becomes “we” “Me and mine” are replaced by “us and ours” (Lowery 2002:69). The two fractions of people are made into a whole of one person. The two wills are bound together as one (Lowery 2002:69). The husband and wife “start with two personalities, two minds, two souls, and two backgrounds …Becoming one is a process that takes time, hard work, desire, love and the power of God” (Lowery 2002: 73).
To have a successful marriage death should be experienced in several arenas. It is true that “the marriage relationship is based on a “walk of death” – death to certain freedoms, death to dependence on parents, death to prior relationships, and death to self, all of which are necessary for the marriage to have a life of its own and a new wholeness as two become one” (Lowery 2002: xvii). I agree with Lowery (2002:xvii) that the death in the areas pointed above will lead to divorce-proofing a marriage.
It is true that marriage will be short-lived for those who chose not ‘die’ in the areas mentioned above (Lowery 2002: 13). Self and individualism have been popularized in the
modern world by some of marriage experts. This is to be concerned with self fulfillment first. They do not have a regard for the fulfillment of the needs of the other. Such a concept is foreign to the Bible (Gal. 6:2; Eph. 5:20-27; 1 Cor. 13:5).
Frank D. Cox (1990: 68) believes that those who marry their friends have better chances of forming successful marriages. He maintains that a friend can also become a lover. But not all friends can become lovers. Practices done in friendship are necessary for lovers (Van Pelt 2003: 50). There is an opinion that we should marry someone whom we are sexually attracted to (Self and Self 1998:91). These authors emphasize the fact that “You don’t want someone just to be your roommate or housekeeper or breadwinner” (Self and Self 1998:91). Sex cannot be detached from love affairs. Ellen White (1980:43) advises against marrying a person one does not love.
The couples have an obligation to satisfy each other. “The expression of love that is demonstrated between Christ and His Church should be the model for the marriage relationship between a man and a woman” (Royer 2000:201).
3.2 FORMING MARRIAGES ON DANGEROUS GROUND
Both the OT and the NT forbid a believer like the ancient Israelites and Christians from marrying non-Israelites and unbelievers. God said to ancient Israelites “You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons, or taking their daughters for your sons. For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods…” (Deut. 7:3-4 RSV). This commandment was given to Israel in the wilderness when Israel became a nation. When the Jews returned from their Babylonian captivity, the injunction was still outstanding (Neh. 10: 30; Ezr. 9:1,2, 12). Even at the close of the Old Testament period, in the book of Malachi (2:11), marrying non-Israelites was still forbidden.
The Israelites sinned against their God because of marrying foreign wives (Mal.2: 11; 1 Kin. 11:1-8). Thus kings such as Solomon, Ahab (1 Kin. 16:31-33) and the whole nation of Israel were disobeying God by marrying non-Israelites. The judge, Samson, decided to